Monday, January 28, 2013

water, blood, and spirit crying

If you are unfamiliar with this hymn, brace yourself.

Context:  I am currently taking a class called Liturgical Church Music Administration, which is basically a practical application course for all us poor lambs who are about to head out into the great grown-up world of ecclesiastical music.  It's a put-on-your-helmet-and-buckle-up sort of class.  I like it.

One of our recent assignments was to write a church newsletter blerb about a hymn (a.k.a. "hymn story") explicating a hymn of our choice in an easily comprehensible manner.  As a few of my friends and I recently began memorizing Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying, my choice wasn't difficult.  This hymn is one of my all-time favorites (right up there with God's Own Child, I Gladly Say It), so please, humor my sharing it.  The following is my newsletter blerb, plus the hymn itself and a link so you can hear it.

Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying (Lutheran Service Book 597)
        "To look for God we need look no further than the cross."  Stephen Starke, the writer of Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying, prefaces his explanation for its text with these words.  Starke based this hymn primarily on 1 John 5:5-8, illustrating the profound significance of each of the three witnesses it mentions (water, blood, and Spirit) with rich and vivid imagery.
        The theme from John 10:10 bookends this hymn (stanzas one and five):  "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."  Christ's "death-defying" and "death-defeating" Life has come, and it has come for all - that means for us!  The three witnesses of the title work faith in us and continue to strengthen us.
        Stanza two (emphasizing water) recalls our baptism with the powerful image of our Old Adam - our sinful nature - being buried in a "wat'ry grave" at the baptismal font.  Rather than drowning in the death that was meant to hold us eternally, we rise with Christ, and are ferried by his saving Life across "death's raging flood," just as Noah and his family were spared in the ark from the Flood in Genesis.
        Stanza three (emphasizing blood) evokes images from Psalm 23.  Here we sing of how Christ leads us safely past death's fierce scowl to the life-sustaining feast of his Body and Blood in the Lord's Supper.  Truly, our "cup overflows" (Ps. 23:5) with the grace he gives us in this sacrament.
        Stanza four (emphasizing Spirit) depicts God, our life-giving hero, unsheathing the two-edged sword of his Word - the Word that does exactly as he purposes, and does not return empty (Isaiah 55:11).  His Spirit is in and with his Word, and through his Spirit, he breathes life into us who are dead without him.
        Ending with stanza five, we see these three witnesses brought together again - the Word and Sacraments!  In the words of Stephen Starke, "The precious means of grace - Holy Baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Word of God - indeed testify to all that God has done for us and for all by Christ's death on the cross, by which He brings life to our dying world, defying and defeating death itself!"
        The tune (FILTER) and its harmonization in the Lutheran Service Book, both composed by Jeffrey Blersch, are as rich and vivid as the text.  The hymn's dark edginess focuses the energy of the words we sing: we hear the water, blood, and Spirit crying out the witness they bear!  As the redeemed children of God, sprinkled in the blood of Christ, we confidently march past Death's scowl and into the Life won for us on the cross!

Starke quotes are from his blog, starke Kirchenlieder.
Listen to the hymn: (a full MP3 is available there).

Hymn Text:  Water, Blood, and Spirit Crying (Lutheran Service Book 597)

1. Water, blood, and Spirit crying,
    By their witness testifying
    To the One whose death-defying
       Life has come, with life for all.

2. In a wat'ry grave are buried
    All our sins that Jesus carried;
    Christ, the Ark of Life, has ferried
       Us across death's raging flood.

3. Dark the way, yet Christ precedes us,
    Past the scowl of death He leads us;
    Spreads a table where He feeds us
      With His body and His blood.

4. Through around us death is seething,
    God, His two-edged sword unsheathing,
    By His Spirit life is breathing
       Through the living, active Word.

5. Spirit, water, blood entreating,
    Working faith and its completing
    In the One whose death-defeating
       Life has come, with life for all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

my advocate

My Advocate

I sinned. And straightway, post-haste, Satan flew
Before the presence of the Most High God,
And made a the railing accusation there.
He said, “This soul, this thing of clay and sod,
Has sinned. ‘Tis true that he has named Thy name,
But I demand death, for Thou hast said,
‘The soul that sinneth, it shall die.’ Shall not
Thy sentence be fulfilled? Is justice dead?
Send now this wretched sinner to his doom.
What other thing can righteous ruler do?”

And thus he did accuse me day and night,
And every word he spoke, O God, was true!

Then quickly One rose up from God’s right hand,
Before whose glory angels veiled their eyes.
He spoke, “Each jot and tittle of the law
Must be fulfilled: the guilty sinner dies!
But wait—suppose his guilt were all transferred
To ME and that I paid his penalty!
Behold My hands, My side, My feet! One day
I was made sin for him, and died that he
Might be presented faultless, at Thy throne!”

And Satan fled away. Full well he knew
That he could not prevail against such love,
For every word my dear Lord spoke was true!

—Martha Snell Nicholson

Monday, August 13, 2012

happy food: beet stacks

I was an odd child.

And perhaps the fact that I find the mention of beets salivation-worthy continues to contribute to my oddity as a young adult.

But guys, this recipe is fantastic.

Perhaps it is their refined, solid smoothness, or maybe their distinctly earthy flavor, or, simply, it could be their fantastic color... but beets hit my happy button.

Seriously.  Give this goodness a try.

4 beets (small to medium sized)
4 ounces goat cheese
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup walnut oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

-  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
-  Scrub, rinse, and pat beets dry, then rub with a small amount of olive oil and wrap tightly in foil (two beets per foil packet).  Roast for one to one and half hours until beets are tender and easily pierced with a knife.  Allow to slightly cool, then carefully remove skin.  (The beets will stain your hands and clothing!  It's a gorgeous color... but beware).  Set aside.
-  In a small, dry frying pan, toast walnuts until slightly browned.  Set aside.
-  In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and walnut oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
-  Once skin is removed, slice beets width-wise into three or four sections (depending on the size of the beets).
-  In layers, alternate beet slices and crumbled goat cheese.  Drizzle stacks with balsamic walnut oil vinaigrette, fresh thyme leaves, and the toasted walnuts.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

sober scholar

Don't worry.  I'm not about to be long-winded today.

If you don't know who Alexander Pope is, I highly recommend you acquaint yourself with him.  He was an incredibly insightful writer around the time of Bach.  (Think late 1600s through mid 1700s).  Although Shakespeare shall always possess the highest claim upon my literary heartstrings, Pope is the bomb.

As a new school year approaches, this excerpt from An Essay on Criticism keeps rolling through my mind.  As my words can hardly add to these, I'll leave you with Pope's words:

A little Learning is a dang'rous Thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring:
There shallow Draughts intoxicate the Brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
Fir'd at first Sight with what the Muse imparts,
In fearless Youth we tempt the Heights of Arts,
While from the bounded Level of our Mind,
Short Views we take, nor see the lengths behind,
But more advanc'd, behold with strange Surprize
New, distant Scenes of endless Science rise!
So pleas'd at first, the towring Alps we try,
Mount o'er the Vales, and seem to tread the Sky;
Th' Eternal Snows appear already past,
And the first Clouds and Mountains seem the last:
But those attain'd, we tremble to survey
The growing Labours of the lengthen'd Way,
Th' increasing Prospect tires our wandering Eyes,
Hills peep o'er Hills, and Alps on Alps arise!

Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, lines 215-232